Three more things I like

Marathon Talk

This is a podcast that I sometimes listen to on Spotify. It has a very laid-back feel, and there is a gentle banter between the two main presenters.

They have had some really intelligent interviews recently, especially the one with Murray, talking about nutrition misconceptions. It is really refreshing to hear a view like his which promotes normal, natural eating rather than crazy crash diets.

They have also gone on some epic rants in recent episodes. There was one about the media coverage of women in sport (or the lack thereof) last week.

The format of the podcast is really long, and it is possible to dip in and out, which makes it ideal to have on in the background whilst cooking.

Toe Socks

A recent addition to my running gear, these are socks that separate out each toe, the idea being to stop them from rubbing together on long distances, and therefore to reduce blisters.

I though they would feel weird but I quickly stopped noticing and they genuinely do help.

Touch-screen gloves

I bought some running gloves lately because my hands get very dry in the winter; it’s so bad that the skin cracks open and I get lots of tiny cuts on my knuckles, and I almost never remember to apply hand cream.

So I bought this pair of gloves but didn’t really know what the little gel bits on them were for, until someone at work pointed out that they enable you to still use a smart phone with them on.

And they actually work – no more glove-goes-on, glove-goes-off when unlocking my phone. (Sometimes it’s the small things that make me happy!)

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The (sometimes) insidious influence of the internet on your psyche

I see a lot of blogs where people are being really hard on themselves when it comes to motivation. Whilst a little bit of grit is a good thing, and a solid work ethic will take you a long way, sometimes we need to take a step back and re-evaluate.

If your goal is weight loss, please, please make sure you treat headlines such as “How I lost eight pounds in eight days” with suspicion. I’m not saying that crazy weight loss feats can’t be done, but there’s an awful lot of disingenuous click-bait out there. These kinds of articles are very slick and designed to maximise traffic at all costs. Genuinely helpful content is probably way down their list of intentions. This is one of the reasons I like WordPress: not everyone on here is an expert (I’m certainly not) but a lot of bloggers are earnestly trying to navigate the minefield of information and misinformation out there in order to present their readers with some kind of sensible advice.

Joe Rogan claims on his podcast that a lot of “before and after” pictures that accompany these kind of weight loss articles are actually reversed: ie. they pay someone who is in really good shape to gain weight and then the after picture is actually the before picture

Whether this is true or not, thirty three years of experience of people tells me that it very well could be true. The world, and the portion of the world that has made it online, does not always have your best interests at heart.

So coming back to my original thought, some of the articles selling crazy transformation routines may be having a negative impact by making you think that you’re some kind of loser if you don’t follow a training plan to the letter, even if that training plan would intimidate even a semi-professional athlete.

And this is the kind of thing I have seen a lot of recently – people getting depressed because they missed one work-out, one morning run.

If this is you, I admire your determination, but please consider showing yourself a little kindness. If you have an inner voice that is always critical, maybe allow yourself a break, just this once.

Healthy weight loss takes time. It’s a slow and steady process, but also a rewarding one. Also, by developing good habits over time, rather than following some crazy crash course, the weight loss will probably be more sustainable.

On top of that, weight is not the only metric of good health. Reducing stress is a very important part of overall health, as is getting enough sleep.

Sometimes oversleeping and missing that early morning run is your body’s way of telling you that you’re overdoing it and you need more rest.

Once you start getting into it, exercise should bring you joy and become one of your de-stressors, not be one more obligation in a list of obligations laid on you by your job, your friends, your family, your life in general.

 

Something to consider when it comes to weight loss

I used to think that weight loss/gain was a simple matter of calories in vs calories out, but the more I read, the more I get the impression that it’s not quite as simple as that.

Here is an idea that might throw a spanner in the works…

EPOC

This stands for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (also known as afterburn or oxygen deficit) and can cause a continued calorie burn even after the exercise session has finished. It is basically continued energy use, needed to restore the body to its normal state.

There is some debate about the effects of this phenomenon but there seems to be a consensus that you get more afterburn from high intensity activities (this is the rowing machine for me) or resistance training (another name for lifting weights, although cranking the actual resistance all the way up on the elliptical machine/cross trainer should do it).

Admittedly, the science behind nutrition and exercise should be taken with a pinch of salt (no pun intended) at all times. We have seen complete u-turns in the wisdom over the years, perhaps most notably on sugar vs fat. But I try to respond to this by pursuing a variety of different approaches, just in case. (I’m pretty much hedging my bets.)

And to use another seasoning metaphor, variety is the spice of life, so if you are the type who likes to maintain steady-state cardio for an hour, why not mix it up with something a bit more intense?

If nothing else, rocking out to your favourite upbeat tune and running, cycling or rowing as fast as you possibly can for a minute or two at a time is a lot of fun, as is the sense of satisfaction and power that comes from lifting heavy objects whilst blasting a good hip-hop track.

Thoughts on running nutrition and weight loss

This post was inspired by The Story of my Treadmill on the Yuvi’s Buzz blog. It is a really good account of the emotional ups and downs of dieting. I recommend that you read it first and then (hopefully) return and read the rest of this post. You can read it here.

I hope she won’t mind me saying this but I fundamentally disagree with the idea of dieting. (Yes, I said it. I don’t follow diet plans.)  Instead, I think the way forward is to embrace long-term, sustainable changes. This embraces a number of ideas, such as healthy food swaps, portion control by stealth, and small adjustments.

Let me explain further…

Healthy food swaps

This is stuff like replacing beef mince with turkey mince in your cooking, replacing refined sugar with honey (sugar is still sugar, but honey hasn’t been stripped of it’s natural, fibre-containing, context), replacing soft drinks with sparkling water, and so on. These might not seem like too much of a big deal but could add up to a lot less fat and sugar in your diet. The jury’s still out on fat consumption but reducing sugar intake should contribute to weight loss.

Portion control

This one is dead simple: buy smaller plates, preferably attractive looking ones that will complement your food presentation.

My partner and I used to eat portions that were really far too big. For instance, those microwaveable rice packets that you get that they recommended to serve two people, well, we used to have one each. As rice is a carbohydrate, I decided to use only one pack for the two of us. I then upped the amount of vegetables on the plate so we didn’t feel that we were on a diet. (I always put butter on our vegetables by the way because a nutritionist at the gym told me that butter is not a problem. In fact, news stories have come out lately saying that margarine may be more harmful than butter. Seriously, search that one in your browser. And it makes a huge pile of vegetables much more palatable.) I try to have at least two different colours of vegetable if I can; it makes the meal look more attractive and gets more micronutrients onto the plate.

Cutting down the plate size is a well-known trick and really is portion control by stealth. A larger plate that’s half-empty always looks a lot sadder than a full smaller plate, even though there may be the same amount of food on each.

Below, you can see a picture of our old plates and our new plates, which are black and make the food you serve look more fancy!

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Small adjustments

Do you take sugar in tea or coffee? Could you cut the number of teaspoons/sugar cubes you take by one?

I challenge you!

It may take you a while to get used to the new taste but in the long run it will reduce those sweet-tooth cravings and reduce your teaspoons of sugar per day by the number of hot beverages you have everyday. That means if you’re like me, and drink three to four coffees a day, you will reduce your sugar intake by three to four teaspoons per day, everyday, FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. No diet plan. No calorie counting. Just one simple change. What’s more, if you try going back, you will find that your taste has adjusted and having your previous number of sugars now makes you feel a bit sick. (A sweet-tooth really is more of a habit than a pre-set disposition.)

Upgrade your nutrition

There is a lot of emphasis out there about eating less. It seems to me that a lot of people think the way forward is to just keep reducing their calories. In the short term, this may work, but you inevitably cannot sustain eating fewer calories than you need. It has been shown that a staggeringly high percentage of yo-yo dieters not only re-gain the weight a few years later, but they normally put more on as well.

I think a lot of people need to eat more: more fruits and vegetables, more protein (not if you’re already on protein supplements), more healthy fats. So instead of thinking in terms of cutting back, it may help to think in terms of cramming as much nutrition into a dish as you possibly can.

Porridge made with milk and honey is good. It’s got oats, it’s got protein in the milk, and it avoids empty-calorie refined sugar.

Porridge made with milk and honey, and added flaxseed, is even better though. Now you’ve added omega 3!

And porridge made with milk, honey, added flaxseed and added blueberries, is even better still!

This is a breakfast that will really set you up for the day, and should satisfy your appetite so that you aren’t craving a bag of crisps or a chocolate bar later on. (If you buy fruit and can’t manage to eat it all before it goes off, a cheaper option is to buy frozen blueberries and take out a small portion to defrost overnight. I know this is starting to sound like hard work but it’s really not.)

Food really isn’t something to be scared of.

In fact, it’s essential for your life, energy and wellbeing.

Eat well, enjoy your food and give yourself the fuel you need for an awesome run!